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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2007 Dec;10(6):596-600. Epub 2007 Nov 5.

Bacterial morphology: why have different shapes?

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037, USA.


The fact that bacteria have different shapes is not surprising; after all, we teach the concept early and often and use it in identification and classification. However, why bacteria should have a particular shape is a question that receives much less attention. The answer is that morphology is just another way microorganisms cope with their environment, another tool for gaining a competitive advantage. Recent work has established that bacterial morphology has an evolutionary history and has highlighted the survival value of different shapes for accessing nutrients, moving from one place to another, and escaping predators. Shape may be so important in some of these endeavors that an organism may change its morphology to fit the circumstances. In short, if a bacterium needs to eat, divide or survive, or if it needs to attach, move or differentiate, then it can benefit from adopting an appropriate shape.

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